Gary Harle isn’t one to willingly accept spotlight or praise — even when it’s well deserved. It’s a character trait that comes as no surprise to those who know and work with him at the Regina Rugby Union.
“He doesn’t take credit for anything, it’s somewhat annoying,” joked union President Josef Buttigieg. “He’s 110 per cent selfless.”
Harle began demonstrating his altruistic nature to the rugby community in 1982, when he joined the senior men’s club, the Campion Grads, volunteering for fundraising bingos and other club duties.
Four decades later, Harle’s volunteer efforts have earned him the affectionate title of Mr. Rugby among his Regina cohorts. He still helps his club, but his volunteer efforts have expanded to include scheduling games for the union, assigning officials, officiating himself, sitting on the union’s board as the Vice President of Rugby Operations. He’s also the first one at the field for every game, setting things up so that teams can just show up and play.
“It’s more of a case of what hasn’t he done for the club and the union,” said Buttigieg, who is also a member of the Campion Grads. “He’s served on the board for as long as I can remember and in terms of the clubs, he works really closely with presidents and club members themselves to help promote and organize rugby in Regina and Saskatchewan.”
For Harle, who has also sat on the board for the Regina Association of Basketball Officials, volunteering is about seeing a gap in an area or a role and doing what you can to help fill it. And while Harle admits that sometimes it’s easy to get the job because no one else wants to do it, he continues to volunteer because of the enjoyment he gets from his work and the opportunity it provides him to give back.
“It’s fun and it keeps me involved in rugby when I can no longer play,” Harle said. “Part of it, though, you like to think you’ve got some good things to offer and can make it better. That’s the biggest thing.”
It’s an example that Harle says was set for him by another stalwart rugby volunteer Bill Brennan, who was Harle’s teammate when he started playing with the Campion Grads and who received the Saskatchewan Sport Award’s Volunteer Award in 1984.
“He did an awful lot of things to help out our team and I think I saw that and when I got older, I kind of started to do, although not as good, some of the things he did.”
Harle’s self-assessment of not doing things as well as Brennan, again, seems to be par for the course for how he reacts when being recognized for the work he’s done for rugby over the last 40 years. For Buttigieg, that kind of reaction epitomizes both Harle and the sport of rugby, a game that’s seemingly barbaric, but is played by individuals that are humble and down to earth.
“That’s rugby at its heart. That’s Gary.”